(Image courtesy imcdb.org)
Hands up if you’ve ever seen the 2003 movie Grand Theft Parsons, starring Johnny Knoxville…. I didn’t think so. It was a strange “black comedy” effort, based on a true story, that portrayed the events surrounding the death of music artist Gram Parsons. It was pretty soundly panned by critics. To me, the movie is notable for one reason: Gram’s crazy ex-girlfriend, played by Christina Applegate, drove a 1966 Chrysler Newport convertible.
(Image courtesy imcdb.org)
Phil Kaufman (Knoxville) procures a hearse to steal the body of his deceased friend Gram Parsons, with the intent of cremating him in the desert. Parsons’ crazy ex Barbara (Applegate) has what she claims is his last will, leaving everything to her. However she needs a death certificate to go with it… and for that she needs the body.
It’s unfortunate that, although the Newport appears frequently throughout the movie, there doesn’t appear to be any promotional material that includes it. It doesn’t even appear anywhere on the DVD cover. The psychedelically painted hearse carrying Parsons’ casket gets all the press.
This full-figured Mopar that would become a movie star was built at Chrysler’s Jefferson plant in Detroit and shipped to McIlvain Motors of Prescott, Arizona on March 15, 1966. However, it moved to California early in its life, obtaining the coveted California “black plates”. The first letter “T” suggests it would have been registered in California in 1967. There is also an old sticker in the corner of the windshield from the Long Beach Marina. Wish I could find out more about that time in the car’s life, but privacy issues and pre-computer record keeping make that unlikely.
Whoever originally ordered this car did not splurge on the options sheet: It got an engine upgrade from the base 383 2-barrel to the 4-barrel engine, but not the available 440cid engine. It did not get the optional exterior chrome accent package, bucket seats, or other power toys which convertible buyers were more likely than the typical Newport buyer to purchase. It did go back to the dealer to be retrofitted with a Chrysler-branded “Cool Aire” under-dash A/C unit, visible in this 2005 photo. The A/C system has since been removed.
From there the trail of ownership history goes cold until we see the car in GTP. The picture vehicle supplier for the movie declined to answer any questions about the car. The poor-quality photo above is the only one I’ve found online of the car on the set during filming.
The dashpad was signed by Christina Applegate, Johnny Knoxville, and Mike Shannon (the director). After starring in GTP, the Newport was auctioned off at a movie car auction held at the Peterson Museum. It was bought by a California car dealer that specializes in classic cars. It was then sold to a gentleman in central New York state, who had it shipped up from California. He didn’t care about the car’s movie credentials. He said he had always driven Chrysler C-body convertibles, and wanted this car to replace his tired 1968 Chrysler 300.
After receiving the car he had a change of heart, and decided that his money was better spent restoring his ’68 300 instead. He put the Newport up for auction on eBay in 2006. The pictures on eBay showed that the car appeared to be in the same condition that it had been when last advertised in California, right down to the incorrect Plymouth Volare wheel covers. Some crazy Canadian who was looking for a fairly original 1966 Chrysler convertible on a budget was the sole bidder, and the Newport made its way to the Great White North.
Mechanically the car was not as sound as had been hoped, which probably contributed to the owner from New York’s decision to resell it. Almost every mechanical system required attention of some form, from replacing seals and gaskets on the transmission to a complete engine overhaul, a bent driveshaft and a leaking heater core.
The interior was also refurbished. Among other things, the dashboard was disassembled and the cast metal core repainted, a factory correct optional AM/FM radio replaced the aftermarket one, and a new carpet was installed.
While it’s still not “perfect”, the owners are enjoying the fruits of their labours. Today, the GTP Newport is retired from the movie business, at least for the time being. It is most likely to be found attending car shows and going for scenic top-down drives on sunny summer days.
I always liked the simpler, unadorned lines of the Newport convertible rather than the New Yorker or 300.
BTW, I think Ray Liotta might have driven one of these in Goodfellas (maybe the same one).
A different 66 Newport convertible was in Goodfellas. It’s either Daffodil Yellow or Ivory with a black top and black interior.
How long did the refurbishing take you? The wheels on it now look far better than Volare wheel covers.
Thanks! I keep one of my Chryslers in the garage at our house every winter to do a major project on. Between 2006-2010, the convertible was my project car for 4 of those 5 winters.
Thanks, I also think the wheels look much better now. Those wheel covers were optional on Newport and New Yorker in 66, and in 67 with different logos in the center caps.
Fix the pictures, they only show up as lines.
Is anyone else seeing just lines? I’m at a family re-union on a borrowed PC, and I don’t know what’s wrong. I checked this post before I left and it looked ok then.
Pics 1-3 are lines; 4-6 are normal, 7-12 are lines. Weirdly, clicking on the lines of 7-12 brings up the full pic in a new window; clicking on the lines of 1-3 does nothing. I’m viewing on my PC. When I view it on my iPhone, all the pics are visible as usual. Has someone from British Leyland been doing some “enhancements”?
Getting the same effect as NZ. Too bad, lovely car!
I can remember it happening.Time flies I was 15 nearly 16.
I like! I have never seen the movie I should be more like that guy in New York and start driving one of these again. Here in rust country, though, I would choose a more common sedan.
Did all the pictures show up for you?
They are showing up for me.
Pictures are fine on both my work (Windows XP) and home (Windows 7) computers. Browser issue? I’m using Firefox.
Edit – Fine in Google Chrome, but problem shows up in IE. Might be a picture size issue, will check.
Second edit – No idea. You can click on the vertical line displayed in IE and the picture will open. Not a problem with the other browsers.
Using MacOSX and Safari, no problems.
Are the JPEGs hosted on another server or service? Sometimes they are on graphics-heavy Web pages and if there’s traffic issues or server problems, you can get a bunch of question-marks in fields.
I looked at the html sourcecode and there is an invalid width value on the pictures that are acting up. It seems that every browser except IE can handle it gracefully.
Pics look fine from here nice car with an entertaining history.
Lines only. You can click on the lines to see the pics.
I thought the movie was terrible. As a fan of Gram Parsons, I noticed very few accurate events throughout. He didn’t really have a crazy ex girlfriend, he had a wife (who looks eerily like Christina).
Bob Parsons didn’t drive across the country to see Gram’s body. Bob was in full-time care because he had cirrhosis of the liver.
I don’t understand why the writer/producer had to add so many unnecessary and untrue details.
What a crappy movie.
Another peeve I had was that the hearse was too new to be that dilapidated.
In reality, it was a 50s hearse that they used.
Pics are fine on my android. Terrific story!
The movie is on IFC every once in a while. Always like seeing Robert Forster in something.
WDC Global Exports in Ontario, California STILL hasn’t sold that ’66 Newport convertible I first mentioned a couple of years ago here.
I’d swoop on it myself, but my savings account and storage space are both maxed out.
Good God I love this, and the ’66 Polara and ’68 Sport Fury from this week. Nothing says Mopar like an old C body.
I see the images just fine using Vista 64 and Firefox (at 9:32pm PST).
Great story on an interesting vehicle.
I once had the ’68 Newport 4 door pillared sedan back in the early 80’s, and it was the base car with the base bench seat, column shifter, and thumbwheel AM radio with under dash AirTemp AC that didn’t exactly blow cold air.
Had the remote driver’s side mirror, and manual everything else but power brakes, and steering.
It also had the base 383 with 2 barrel carburetor.
A great car, though tired and weathered, but it got me through my first year and a half of car ownership though.
Wow, your Newport has an interesting story. And you can tell people that Kelly Bundy once drove your car 🙂
Before I even read the post, the first thing I thought was “Why does it have Volaré wheel covers?”
A sharp car and I’m glad it is now fitted with the correct wheel covers!